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tropical disease

Infection by the zika virus

In early 2015, the public health service in the city of Natal, state of Rio Grande do Norte, began reporting cases of patients presenting fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, and joint pain. For some time, these symptoms were mistaken for those of dengue fever, given the endemic presence of the disease in that area. But serological and molecular tests soon eliminated that possibility. By analyzing blood serum samples from eight of these patients, researchers from the Carlos Chagas Institute at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in the city of Curitiba, state of Paraná, and from the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte were able to determine the culprit: the ZIKV virus, responsible for zika fever (Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, June 2015). Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the viral strain circulating in the region descends from an Asian lineage. According to the researchers, identifying the zika virus as being responsible for an epidemic of the disease in northeastern Brazil makes this the first report of autochthonous transmission (within the same state or city) of zika fever in Brazil. Like the dengue and chikungunya viruses, the zika virus is also transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Researchers believe that this will make it easier for the virus to disperse into other regions of Brazil. For now, controlling the mosquito is the only measure that can interrupt transmission of the virus.